Sidor som bilder

" and neither the music of the shepherd, the crashing' " of the avalanche, nor the torrent, the mountain, the glacier, the forest, nor the cloud, have for one moment lightened the weight upon my heart, nor enabled me 'to lose my own wretched identity in the majesty, and 'the power, and the glory, around, above, and beneath me.'

Among the inmates at Sécheron, on his arrival at Geneva, Lord Byron had found Mr. and Mrs. Shelley, and a female relative of the latter, who had about a fortnight before taken up their residence at this hotel. It was the first time that Lord Byron and Mr. Shelley ever met; though, long before, when the latter was quite a youth,-being the younger of the two by four or five years, he had sent to the noble poet a copy of his Queen Mab, accompanied by a letter, in which, after detailing at full length all the accusations he had heard brought against his character, he added, that, should these charges not have been true, it would make him happy to be honoured with his acquaintance. The book alone, it appears, reached its destination,— the letter having miscarried, and Lord Byron was known to have expressed warm admiration of the opening lines of the poem.

There was, therefore, on their present meeting at Geneva, no want of disposition towards acquaintance on either side, and an intimacy almost immediately sprung up between them. Among the tastes common to both, that for boating was not the least strong; and in this beautiful region they had more than ordinary temptations to indulge in it. Every evening, during their residence under the same roof at Sécheron, they embarked, accompanied by the ladies and Polidori, on

the Lake; and to the feelings and fancies inspired by these excursions, which were not unfrequently prolonged into the hours of moonlight, we are indebted for some of those enchanting stanzas*, in which the poet has given way to his passionate love of Nature so fervidly.

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There breathes a living fragrance from the shore
'Of flowers yet fresh with childhood; on the ear
'Drips the light drop of the suspended oar.


'At intervals, some bird from out the brakes
'Starts into voice a moment, then is still.
There seems a floating whisper on the hill,
'But that is fancy,-for the starlight dews
'All silently their tears of love instil,
Weeping themselves away.'


who was of these parties has thus described to me one of their evenings. 'When the bise or northeast wind blows, the waters of the Lake are driven 'towards the town, and, with the stream of the Rhone, 'which sets strongly in the same direction, combine to make a very rapid current towards the harbour. Carelessly, one evening, we had yielded to its course, 'till we found ourselves almost driven on the piles; ' and it required all our rowers' strength to master the tide. The waves were high and inspiriting,— we were all animated by our contest with the elements. "I will sing you an Albanian song," cried 'Lord Byron; "now, be sentimental and give me all your attention." It was a strange, wild howl that he gave forth; but such as, he declared, was an exact 'imitation of the savage Albanian mode,-laughing, 'the while, at our disappointment, who had expected ' a wild Eastern melody.'

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Sometimes the party landed, for a walk upon the * Childe Harold, Canto iii.

shore, and, on such occasions, Lord Byron would loiter behind the rest, lazily trailing his sword-stick along, and moulding, as he went, his thronging thoughts into shape. Often too, when in the boat, he would lean abstractedly over the side, and surrender himself up, in silence, to the same absorbing task.

The conversation of Mr. Shelley, from the extent of his poetic reading, and the strange, mystic speculations into which his system of philosophy led him, was of a nature strongly to arrest and interest the attention of Lord Byron, and to turn him away from worldly associations and topics into more abstract and untrodden ways of thought. As far as contrast, indeed, is an enlivening ingredient of such intercourse, it would be difficult to find two persons more formed to whet each other's faculties by discussion, as on few points of common interest between them did their opinions agree; and that this difference had its root deep in the conformation of their respective minds needs but a glance through the rich, glittering labyrinth of Mr. Shelley's pages to assure us.

In Lord Byron, the real was never forgotten in the fanciful. However Imagination had placed her whole realm at his disposal, he was no less a man of this world than a ruler of hers; and, accordingly, through the airiest and most subtile creations of his brain still the life-blood of truth and reality circulates. With Shelley it was far otherwise ;-his fancy (and he had sufficient for a whole generation of poets) was the medium through which he saw all things, his facts as well as his theories; and not only the greater part of his poetry, but the political and philosophical speculations in which he indulged, were all distilled through the same over-refining and unrealizing alem

bic. Having started as a teacher and reformer of the world, at an age when he could know nothing of the world but from fancy, the persecution he met with on the threshold of this boyish enterprise but confirmed him in his first paradoxical views of human ills and their remedies; and, instead of waiting to take lessons of authority and experience, he, with a courage, admi rable had it been but wisely directed, made war upon both. From this sort of self-willed start in the world, an impulse was at once given to his opinions and powers directly contrary, it would seem, to their natural bias, and from which his life was too short to allow him time to recover. With a mind, by nature, fervidly pious, he yet refused to acknowledge a Supreme Providence, and substituted some airy abstraction of 'Universal love' in its place. An aristocrat by birth and, as I understand, also in appearance and manners, he was yet a leveller in politics, and to such an Utopian extent as to be, seriously, the advocate of a community of property. With a delicacy and even romance of sentiment, which lends such grace to some of his lesser poems, he could notwithstanding contemplate a change in the relations of the sexes, which would have led to results fully as gross as his arguments for it were fastidious and refined; and though benevolent and generous to an extent that seemed to exclude all idea of selfishness, he yet scrupled not, in the pride of system, to disturb wantonly the faith of his fellow-men, and, without substituting any equivalent good in its place, to rob the wretched of a hope, which, even if false, would be worth all this world's best truths.

Upon no point were the opposite tendencies of the two friends, to long established opinions and matter of fact on one side, and to all that was most innovating



and visionary on the other, more observable than in their notions on philosophical subjects; Lord Byron being, with the great bulk of mankind, a believer in the existence of Matter and Evil, while Shelley so far refined upon the theory of Berkeley as not only to resolve the whole of Creation into spirit, but to add also to this immaterial system some pervading principle, some abstract non-entity of Love and Beauty, of which -as a substitute, at least, for Deity-the philosophic bishop had never dreamed. On such subjects, and on poetry, their conversation generally turned; and, as might be expected, from Lord Byron's facility in receiving new impressions, the opinions of his companion were not altogether without some influence on his mind. Here and there, among those fine bursts of passion and description that abound in the Third' Canto of Childe Harold, may be discovered traces of that mysticism of meaning,-that sublimity, losing itself in its own vagueness,-which so much characterized the writings of his extraordinary friend; and in one of the notes we find Shelley's favourite Pantheism of Love thus glanced at:- But this is not all: the feeling with which all around Clarens and the ' opposite rocks of Meillerie is invested, is of a still 'higher and more comprehensive order than the mere sympathy with individual passion; it is a sense of 'the existence of love in its most extended and sublime capacity, and of our own participation of its good and ' of its glory it is the great principle of the universe, 'which is there more condensed, but not less mani'fested; and of which, though knowing ourselves a'part, we lose our individuality, and mingle in the 'beauty of the whole.'

Another proof of the ductility with which he fell into

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